What Does Customer Service Mean; Really?


I have seen a couple of very interesting posts this week that struck me in the way that the companies went out of their way to make things right for their clients. These kinds of heroic tales always inspire me. And yet there is the other side that says that customers don’t need heroics they really are quite satisfied with capable and competent service.  So which is it? Let me quote my friend Linda Farrar, “it depends.”

The first article I read was in Bloomberg Business Week, the June 6th issue. They were comparing a company called Rackspace with Amazon. They both offer Cloud data storage. They both suffered system problems when their customers could not access their data due to problems with the organizations technology. The difference is imbedded in the culture at Rackspace. They were proactive in communicating with their customers, apologizing and in many cases issuing credit for future billing. They view customer experience as a competitive advantage. Do you; or is it a cost center?

The other story was posted by noted sales authority David Brock. He had some problems with his Dell computer and he talked about it in a blog post he spoke about that problem and team members and leaders from Dell including Michael Dell reached out to him via Twitter, LinkedIn and email to see how they could make it better. They demonstrated not only that they were listening but also that, they heard him and that they wanted to serve. I suspect this is in the DNA of their corporate culture. This is not a policy or a rule. They want to deliver value and they want to know that their customers are happy.

Then there was the HBR podcast from July 2010 Why Delighting Your Customers is Overrated that demonstrated that customers really don’t need to be WOW ed call the time. Capable, timely and reliable service and resolution will do. Customers want it to be easy.

So which is it? My observation is that as I work with companies, I can be very satisfied with reliable, timely and capable service. I will even refer friends. But, when something goes wrong and it is my sellers fault, I expect them to:

  • Acknowledge that they have increased the difficulty of my life
  • Extend an offer to make it better. This can be a sincere apology, a refund, or a credit. It’s not so much what they do to make it better it’s more about the intentions.
  • Be quick with the response

All too often organizations are reluctant to admit that they messed up for a whole host of reasons. The reality is that when we own our mistakes, when we make them right and when we are sincere in our desires to serve our customers they will forgive us.

How does your organization respond to their mistakes?

Take Good Care,

One Comment:

  1. Hi John,

    This is an interesting topic and one without a single answer. What do I want? To not have problems in the first place. But when I do have problems I expect the response to be proportionate with the amount of trouble I am having. When my software doesn’t download properly I want the CS rep to send me the file I need. That’s all. When the grocery store overcharges me for two items when I only bought one, I want a credit for the extra item. That’s all. But when the airline bumps me from a flight that I booked well in advance and now they want me to wait 4 or 8 hours in a noisy, crowded airport for the next flight, I want more than a seat on that plane. I want acknowledgment of error, I want a seat upgrade, and I want to be compensated for my lost time. It’s very possible for a 4 hour delay to cots me a speaking presentation, or delay the start of my workshop. These are BIG deals.

    And when I spend $1000 or more on a new TV set, I expect it to work. If there are problems I not only expect it to be replaced, but I expect to be compensated in another way as well.

    To me the question is a value question both in terms of dollars and pain caused. The more pain I am caused the more I expect the company to step up and make things right.

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